Col­lec­tion of trib­utes full of fun mo­ments from blues gui­tarist

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360BETS - Jim­mie Vaughan — Pa­trick Cald­well

‘Plays Blues, Bal­lads and Fa­vorites’ (Shout Fac­tory) Grade: B

Iconic Texas gui­tarslinger Jim­mie Vaughan walked away with the Grammy for best tra­di­tional blues record­ing for 2001’s ‘Do You Get The Blues?’ and right­fully so. Its la­conic, slow-burn­ing grooves made a strong case for Vaughan as the proper mod­ern de­scen­dant of the genre’s three kings — Al­bert, Fred­die and B.B. — with Vaughan’s dry vo­cals and retro-cool aes­thetic sea­son­ing of 11 deeply sat­is­fy­ing cuts of prime blues beef.

Fol­low­ing up such a ca­reer best — a per­fect syn­the­sis of Vaughan’s own charms and the in­flu­ences of six-string pi­o­neers like Clarence ‘Gate­mouth’ Brown and Johnny ‘Gui­tar’ Wat­son — would prove chal­leng­ing for any­body, even one of Austin’s most-re­spected blues states­men.

Which might ex­plain why ‘Plays Blues, Bal­lads and Fa­vorites’ feels less like a proper fol­low-up and more like an aw­fully fun di­gres­sion. Af­ter 2007’s col­lab­o­ra­tive al­bum with Omar Kent Dykes, ‘On the Jimmy Reed High­way,’ Vaughan again re­turns to the trib­ute well, this time with 12 di­verse cov­ers from died-too-young R&B fa­vorite Johnny Ace to Wil­lie Nel­son and one orig­i­nal in­stru­men­tal.

The re­sults are loose and ca­su­ally charm­ing, but the al­bum rarely hits the notes of stud­ied in­ten­sity that de­fine Vaughan at his best.

Vaughan’s gui­tar sad­dles up with a pris­tine juke-joint take on Billy Emer­son’s ‘The Plea­sure’s All Mine’ be­fore he joins with the smoky, stillse­duc­tive voice of Lou Ann Barton on Jimmy Reed’s ‘Come Love,’ the first of many duets. Barton’s voice doesn’t cut quite as deep as it did on her sim­i­lar guest ap­pear­ances on ‘Do You Get The Blues?’ She shines, though, when cut loose on lead vo­cals, rip­ping into ‘Wheel of For­tune’ and ‘Send Me Some Lovin’ ’ with ob­vi­ous rel­ish. And the al­bum’s ar­ray of guest stars bring their best, from blis­ter­ing tenor so­los from Greg Pi­collo to the in­valu­able trum­pet of Con­ti­nen­tal Club main­stay Ephraim Owens. Vaughan’s choice of ma­te­rial rarely pushes his skills to their limit, but he per­forms nobly on straight­for­ward cuts like Roy Mil­ton’s ‘RM Blues.’ Even when ‘Plays Blues, Bal­lads and Fa­vorites’ sounds like it could have used more money, more pol­ish or more time in the stu­dio, it rarely sounds like it needed more love.

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